Just the Beginning
It will be some time, though, before grid computing is ready for prime time. Databases aren't designed for distributed computing or the grid model yet, so the grid can't yet run corporate financials or other applications heavily dependent on databases. "When you have ad hoc computing where it is hard to predict demand day in and day out, the grid is very attractive," says Jack Cooper, CIO at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., a New York-based drug company that is pilot-testing the grid strategy. "But it is not for standard transaction processing."
But IBM's Turek disagrees. So far, he concedes, "the bulk of the applications to which grid computing has been applied have been driven by people in the university research environment who are certainly more biased toward the computational. But everybody who works in this area knows that the management and analysis of data is the end game. How do you resolve grid approaches to both transactional and batch-oriented data analysis? It's just a matter of advancing the technology a bit from where it is today."
Forward-looking CIOs are already working closely with business leaders at their firms to consider the potential that both the client-centric, in-house grids and the coming utility-based grids might hold for the future business strategies of their corporations, says Foster. "As the business world's understanding of grid strategy broadens, savvy CIOs and their staffs will likely find new tactical and strategic ways to use it," he says. Foster, for one, says it will be no time at all before someone will try to turn excess PC capacity into a paying proposition. "Huge outsourcing service provider models are just around the corner," he says. The Burton Group's Mike Neuenschwander says CIOs and their staffs should think about the possible applications for grid computing in their own companies. "If CIOs think about networking and harnessing these underused computing resources, then they can recognize the business possibilities for grids in many places," he says.
GSK's Simpkins is already mulling the business possibilities. Today, GSK only focuses on its own internal needs. Tomorrow, Simpkins believes, the company will have the ability to sell unused computing power to outsiders if it chooses. "The grid could be a new revenue center," he muses. Not a bad idea for a company already in the business of discovering new cures for the bottom line.
BILL ROBERTS is a Silicon Valley-based writer, editor and technology journalist whose work appears regularly in a variety of technology publications, including eWEEK and Internet World. Comments on this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.